Here They Come, Rounding Third Base…

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by Tom DeMichael

Unless you live in a cave (or abhor sports like Vlad hates garlic,) the present state of Chicago baseball is pretty evident. Yet, hopes on either side of Madison Ave. shouldn’t get too high or too low. Yes, the Cubs will win their division. No, the White Sox will not win theirs. There’s less than twenty games left in the regular season – then everything resets to ZERO.

Guaranteed Rate Field? Nothing Is Guaranteed!

So, what’s up at Comiskey? (I don’t care who they sold the naming rights to, a downward-pointing red arrow is NOT the logo I want associated with a team that wants to win.) Not very much, unfortunately. But, it’s not the team; it’s not even Robin. It’s the folks behind the desks, with a cell phone in their hand and an LCD screen in their face.

The last decent draft the Sox had was in 2010, when they picked a pitching guy named Sale (no elaboration needed.) Among the others selected that year was infielder Tyler Saladino (just starting to make his mark,) and reliever Addison Reed (now with the Mets.)  

The 2011 picks? Only a couple have hit the majors, albeit with other teams – RHP Erik Johnson is not really tearing it up with the Padres and shortstop Marcus Semien has a less-than-.300 on-base percentage with the A’s. 

The number one pick in 2012? An outfielder named Courtney Hawkins, who’s hitting a robust .203 in Double-A Birmingham. Infielder Micah Johnson got some ABs in 2015 with the Sox and is now in the Dodgers organization. 

In 2013? Ah, a great ray of hope named Tim Anderson. The shortstop has shown a lot with the big club in 80 games this year. He’s hitting near .290, but has a dozen errors. That’s OK – he’s just 23 years old. 

The next year corralled a fine lefty named Carlos Rodon, who’s been up and down since falling into the express lane to the majors. For the last two seasons, he’s 16 and 14, with an ERA under 4.00 and about a strikeout an inning. But his WHIP is near 1.5 and that needs to come down. 

Since then, not so good. Left-hander Carson Fulmer, Class of ’15, got slapped around like a rented mule in eight games for the White Sox this year. Other top picks are working their way through the minor league system. That takes time. 

At the major league level, Jose Abreu is right where he should be, after having some rough times earlier in the year. I like Todd Frazier, even though right now he’s doing his best imitation of Adam Dunn.  

On the bump, Sale and Quintana are givens. And, despite what many people think, they shouldn’t be trade-bait. For one, they’re the kind of talent that a team builds around, not trades away. Second, they probably would not bring enough in return for the trades make sense. The James Shields experiment just didn’t work – why, is anyone’s guess. With an ERA over 7.0 and a WHIP of nearly 1.8, there’s no rate of exchange for him, either.

Defensively, Abreu ranks 30th out of 30 major league first basemen. He’s better than that and needs to get that straightened out. After all, Justin Morneau has always had a good glove at first. Adam Eaton’s fielding has put him firmly in the Top Ten for WAR (Wins Above Replacement) for all of baseball. The rest of the team plays solid and steady in the field.

 

Great, Kid(s) – Don’t Get Cocky!

There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance. For the Cubs, being young and brash as they are, they seem to know: 1) Where that line is, and 2) The penalty for going over it. That’s part Joe Maddon, part Theo Epstein/Cubs Way philosophy, and part intrinsic integrity.

We may all want to break out the hats and hooters when the Cubs finish the regular season but, the fact is: They will have won nothing but the chance to move into the post-season. If the team can be likened to Sisyphus, they will have more than one boulder to roll up the hill toward the World Series. 

The “Looks Likes” are always fun. Such as: Looks like Bryant is gonna be MVP. Or, looks like Lester or Hendricks are gonna win the Cy Young Award. Or, looks like Joe Maddon is in line for another Manager of the Year trophy. Or, looks like Addison Russell is a shoo-in for a Gold Glove. 

But all that amounts to bupkis, and the team will be the first to say that. They have been mature and focused on the field (where it counts,) and taken on all comers. Yeah, they’ve worn onesies and yeah, they’ve got a party room with air hockey and a fog machine. But all work and no play makes Aroldis a dull boy. Between the lines, they all mean business. 

There’ll be two wild card teams, apparently between the Giants, Mets, and Cards. All tough, but all capable of being beaten this year. After that, who? Dodgers or Nationals. Both teams have losing head-to-head regular season records this year against the Cubs. But this isn’t the regular season, so all that goes out the window. 

If the road should lead the Boys in Blue to Valhalla, they might find the Rangers, Indians, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Orioles, or Tigers waiting for them. Of that bunch, only the Texas team has played the Cubs in the regular season. Yes, Chicago took two out of three, but again – fugetaboutit.  

And, no one asked me – but, I have a small inkling about the Cubs over the Indians, in seven. 

They look very good. If they win, the city will hear about it – every step of the way.